In between modern and old world

The Muscat souk at night.
The Muscat souk.

In Muscat, I make myself at home at Antonio’s flat. It is the second time I take advantage of his hospitality. The first time was back in Honduras (see here what happened in Honduras), when I stayed at his home for two weeks, while trying to locate a part for the truck. As I was driving through South America and Africa, he decided to take a job in Dubai, and moved there four months ago. It took him one day to fly there, while I had to drive for 7 months to get to the same point. I share the apartment with him and three other expatriates, all working at the newspaper “The Times of Muscat”.

Antonio in old Muscat.
Antonio in old Muscat.
The Sultan.
The Sultan.

The country is ruled by the Sultan Qaboos who seized power in a coup against his father in 1970. He is the prime minister and heads the foreign, finance and defense ministries of Oman. He decides everything in the country and is very popular despite the fact that there is no election.
The temperature is still very high here, and you can’t go out much during the day. But I have to take care of my visas, which I do as soon as I arrive in the city. I am able to obtain easily the Iran visa in three days. It has been more easy than I thought. A month ago, I used a travel agency (recommended, US$42) as a sponsor to get the authorization number from the government. Then I just had to drop my passport here and get it back few days later (US$60).
The India embassy asked for a week for the visa processing. So I just let my passport down there and begin to think that everything is going well.

Observation tower or spaceship?
Observation tower or spaceship?

While it is in the work, I stop by the Pakistan embassy to enquire about the visa process. Here, I am surprised to learn that they would not grant me any visa, and that I am supposed to apply in my home country.
I really can’t fly to France to get my visa, so I keep going every day to the embassy hoping to meet with the consul. After few days, they are tired to see me, and ask me to stop coming.
This new story seems to confirm a theory or more precisely a new physic law I started to identify in Africa. It is very simple and I chose to call it “The theory of global stickiness”. Basically the mathematic formula behind this great discovery is:
More you advance around the world, more the countries become sticky.
Sticky in the sense that it is harder and harder to go to the next country as I progress in my trip.

At the port.
At the port.

While I research a solution to this new problem, I see on internet discussion boards that people are having similar problems in the region. No way of getting the visa in Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Tehran, New Delhi. Great.

Regardless, I send emails to people in New York, Pakistan, Canada, Mexico, Iran, India and France, and as you are reading this post, many people are working on the issue and trying to push on different fronts in an effort to get me the visa.

Small fishing harbor close to the old city.
Small fishing harbor close to the old city.

It is a very annoying problem, because Pakistan is the only way to Asia. Afghanistan, just north, is not easy right now, and even if I could go through, I would still have to cross a part of China to access India. And crossing China is very costly and a paperwork nightmare. I could try to ship from Iran to India, but it would be costly as well and I am not sure of the frequency of travels. In addition I will have to ship again from India to Asia, and I want to drive around the world, not SAIL…
I even looked into crossing Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia to Vladivostok from where I could ship the truck to Korea. But that would mean bypassing India and part of Asia, which would be sad.

Oman Finance Ministry. Ruled by the Sultan.
Oman Finance Ministry. Ruled by the Sultan.

Anyway, it is too soon right now to know what direction I will be going, but I seriously hope I will get this damn visa.
When I am not working on this particular matter, I go out, mostly at night to enjoy more moderate temperatures, and visit the city. We go to the souk and the old Muscat, visit the beach, and even follow the example of locals and go to the mall.

Official visit to the Muscat mall.
Official visit to the Muscat mall.

Monday afternoon I picked up my India visa (US$48), and I will drive on Tuesday to Abu Dhabi or Dubai. This will be an intriguing visit, and I am excited about it. In parallel to the city visits, I will have to get ready to cross the Persian Gulf, this time by ferry boat. And of course, pay a courtesy visit to the Pakistan consulate.

The souk at night.
The souk at night.

35 Replies to “In between modern and old world”

  1. Nick,

    Please do not say you may have to bypass India. I really want you to travel through India and see many great places that are there in northern part of India like Jaipur, Agra(Taj Mahal) and New Delhi etc. Though I am from India (actually from south India) I never visited any place in northern part of India and I really want to see those places through your eyes (You may call me selfish). I wish you get the Pakistan visa soon enough. Stay safe..


  2. Great pictures! Muscat looks like an absolutely beautiful city and such history! I wonder what the root is to”stickiness?” Is it mistrust? Religion? Overall backward mentality? Greed? You seem to be running into it more and more where, quite coincidentally, there’s a lot of turmoil/aggression. I like that you’re staying with your vision to Drive around the world and not sail. You have a global support system who can help you succeed. Continued Good Luck.

  3. Hi Nick,

    i have been following your trip since the beginning and it’s great that you have made it as far as you have without too many harrowing incidents. I was wondering-it you can’t get this Visa thing worked out for Pakistan to continue east, have you thought about including Australia/New Zealand in your journey?

  4. Good to read about YOU and how your doing now that you are at the halfway point. Will be anxious to hear how the visa problem gets solved. Stay positive and just know that we are sending you all our positive thoughts. Would love to be a part of any homecoming in the states near Ohio!

  5. Nick-Your pictures from Oman are beautiful. Tell us, what do they smoke in those pipes?

  6. Hi Nick,
    As you know, Pakistan is the key for this leg of your trip. Without the Pakistan Visa, the shortest shipping point to point, would be from Muscat, Oman to Mumbai, India. But if you want more adventure you could driving around the Persian Gulf. The 73 Kilometer southern Iraq crossing on the so called Highway of Death thru Basra then on to Iran would be the only wild card from where I sit (not recommended). Another option would be to locate a smaller ferry boat that might take you from Kuwait up the river to a portage south of Abadan, Iran (120 to 140 kilometers boat ride).
    Iran has its own unique problems with shipping your truck. Iran only has 3 sea ports of note. Bandar-e-Eman Khomeyniand, Assaluyeh and Bandar Abbas to the south. These 3 ports can only handle ships up to 100,000 tons, so options could be limited. Most of the freight that goes into or out of Iran goes other ports like Dubai then on from their.
    If you choose to visit Iran via ship, you may have to ship your truck 3 separate times depending on the port. With some help from locals you might be able to find a smaller ports.

    Good luck,

  7. Good luck with you Visa. When I pass through there I got my visa just before the border. The world is getting harder to travel in not eaiser. Is this progress? Be prepared for Balochistan. It was the hottest place I have ever driven! You could not even move your hand position on the steering wheel. It was to hot to touch anywhere your hand wasn’t! I fitted the truck with AC as soon as I got to Islamabad!

  8. I talked to my paki friend today for some suggestions… he said to slip some notes into your passport when you go to the embassy 😉

  9. I had no idea getting visa to another country could be such a problem.
    A few bits of info for your readers
    The white “Observation tower or spaceship” is an observation tower built in the shape of an old Omani incense burner .
    You parked your car in a village where these used to be a quarantine station . Now it’s a residential area, home of Dr Boshe who in the 1950s came to Muscat from the United States and was more or less the only western doctor in town till 1970 . Sultan Qaboos has given him a very nice beachfront house just to the right and behind of where you parked .
    Look forward to reading your next destinations

  10. At the risk of lowering the intellectual level of this expedition; have you considered a facebook page for more exposure?

  11. Many, many good wishes for your journey ahead. I have followed your travels from the beginning and it’s always a thrill to open your blog and see a new posting. Muscat looks to be a beautiful city. Good luck with the Pakistan visa. I love the way you don’t take no for an answer. As an ex-journalist, I find that is usually the way to get what you want, You just keep working the possibilities.

  12. Changing your route to include Korea is a nice idea. Or, you’d want to ship from Dubai to Mumbai if you’re skipping Pakistan. The problem there is you’d have to ship to and from Iran to see it. And Isfahan is nice.

  13. Nick,

    I would skip Pakistan entirely. It’s dangerous and the visa may just be too much trouble. India is a major trading partner of Iran and I’m guessing that there is ship transport between the two.


  14. Nick, Is this trip even more exciting/difficult/challenging than you thought? Who do you want to play you in the movie?

    One day at a time….I know you are being careful….You have so many well wishers that are offering you advice….Congratulations on so many fine friends!

    My very best to you~

    Kathleen from North Dakota

  15. Nick,
    If you can’t get the visa for Pakistan, maybe God is closing that door for a reason. I continue to pray for your safety. Can’t wait for your next post.


    PS As someone who has only travelled internationally to Europe (and Canada, if that counts), where do you get your maps and the information on all the details of what you need to travel in all these countries? I’ve never seen a Frommer’s travel guide for Yemen or Oman.

  16. I’m considering putting you on my FB fan site, “The Best Quest”, dedicated to ongoing expeditions and amatuer journeys, soon to become a website. However, I couldn’t find much about a mission statement or objective, information which might be key in deciding whether we would include you. Obviously it is to make it back to New York in 365 days. What is the purpose of saying “Living Dangerously”? What are the dangerous aspects about your journey?

  17. Aloha Braddah Nick.
    Appreciate ur reply. Now I understand why you had to go It alone :)) You’re doing great man. This leg of your trip is the very definition of the title of your web page! Please reply with any info…we really are pulling for you buddy!!! Go! Go! Go!

    Surfer Dude.

  18. Love seeing these new photos. I so wish you weren’t missing Turkey, but I realize you’ve had to change your route. It’s such a beautiful country and rich with history. Perhaps another time.

    Also, G Michaels – have you read Nic’s blog? All of it? The dangerous aspects have lately been, military escort in Yemen for 600 km, men with machine guns in Africa and major visa issues at more than one border with less than hospitable embassy staff. You should really read the blog before you ask these kind of questions.

  19. I have been following your journey ever since I read an article on msnbc about your trip from NY thru. Mexico, all way way to the Panama Canal — when you perhaps had to ship the truck for the first time, I believe– and when you made it to the Argentia leg of your trip.

    As crazy as it sounds, this journey is almost as amazing to me as it is for you as I aspire to do such an expedition or a somewhat much smaller version of it sometime in the future.

    I would love to drive to Alaska from NY and back. I have done a trip from NY to TX to NM and back to NY. Also driven to FL and Canada numerous times and from NY to MN and back. Almost always it was a road trip where I stayed overnight in different states and did the touristy stuff. Haha.

    Anyways good luck chap and I will keep on following you Mr. Brooklynite.

    _Queens, NY.

  20. Heya Nick,

    I would say, just take the gamble and drive up to the border between Iran and Pakistan. Against all advice we did this [though this was in 2004] so things can have changed. Everybody said it was impossible, even the Paki embassy in Teheran. The town just before the border “Zahedan” try your luck? Don’t even think of skipping Pakistan, especially the Northern Area’s…

    Adventurous greetings,

  21. Hello Nick –

    I have been reading with amazement about your story. I certainly hope all goes well for you and I can’t wait to buy your book for my clients when it comes out.

    Travel safely.


  22. Hi Nick…., as always, your writings are so interesting, and thanks for taking time out to answer some of our personal questions, giving us more insight to you & the trip. It’s amazing how different the countries are with their laws and rules for getting papers you need, ect. I hope things do continue to fall into place for you, so that you can travel where you had hoped to and planned on. If you can’t get into some country, than it’s God’s plan for you, and when one door closes, another always opens. He’s one on one protecting you. :). Enjoy your days and keep on keeping on~~!
    hugs from home,

  23. Ha Nico, quelle belle aventure… J’ai un peu de mal avec l’anglais, mais je te suis quand même… Bravo et c’est super ce que tu fais 😉

  24. Hi Nick,

    What an amazing story you have told you far. I have spent the last 5 hours reading each post from the beginning of your trip, and I look forward to reading the next one. Good luck and stay positive. Remember that road sign you saw in Kenya (June 11th blog post).


  25. Rachel,
    They smoke tobacco in the pipes..if it is the same as in North Africa ( Tunis) where i visited they have tobacco in the middle part of the pipe and you can pick diiferent flavors of charcol like wood on the top bowl which is heated on a bbq like stove to a ember ..the pipe if full of water and they give you a plastic tip to put over the long hose..Cherry was my favorite:).Hope this answers your question

  26. Hey Nick,
    if you need a place to stay in Dubai these next days, write me a quick line.

  27. Oman looks great! Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures. I can’t wait to see Dubai through your pictures.

  28. Hi Nick!

    Hope you’re well and make it safely through Pakistan, I was just reading how badly the country has been hit by floods. God speed and be safe!

  29. Nick,

    It really sounds like you win some (easy visas) and you lose some (not so easy visas). I wish you all the luck getting across Asia–I really hope you get to pass through India as it is definitely one of the places I would like to visit!! However, if you end up going through Korea, I think I can offer you some assistance…

    Bon Voyage!


  30. Hi Nick,

    Still here following you and I commend you for all your great efforts. You have inspired me to create my own blog. I visited California for the first time in my life on July 23rd and traveled from San Francisco to Yosemite and back to the coast down to L.A. We visited so many places and saw many beautiful sights….amazing sights, that I am glad to be alive to see. I’m sure you feel the same way, except there is no comparison to what you’re doing to what I did. However, I want to thank you for inspiring me to create my own blog. I am still not done with it as I will post a lot more pictures for my friends and family to see. My vacation ended on August 7th, however, I am still posting pictures for July 30th. So I have ALOT more places to post but I would LOVE for you to subscribe and follow it as well, since this blog is dedicated to you. Subscribe to Let me know your thoughts.

    Thank you

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